Saturday, April 30, 2011

My surgery

A long probably boring account of Thursday - Sunday in the hospital:

My surgery was Thursday, April 21. It went well with only a couple of problems, one being that there was a tear in the dura - so a little spinal fluid leakage. They used bone from my left hip for the fusion process as expected. The surgeon told Ray that he had really misjudged my pain - he was surprised to find the nerves were so stretched, bruised, and purple. The second problem was being under anesthetic longer than anticipated due to the everything.
I was moved from recovery to IMCU (intermediate care unit) sometime Thursday evening. This unit of 11 beds must have had a staff of 22! It seemed that an RN or CNA was with me almost constantly. If I used my call button, a nurse appeared instantly!  I recall getting good care and liking the staff there. The lady in the room next to me often moaned loudly but I didn’t really sleep anyway so it didn’t matter. All of my lost blood was filtered and transfused back to me. I got 1and 1/2 units back. I was very happy that I didn’t need any other blood.
Around 2:30PM on Friday, I was moved to a floor unit - room 823 to be exact. The first person I remember there was Ken, a CNA. He was only there for 1/2 hour that day but would be with me everyday from then on. Most shifts I had both an RN and a CNA; once I just had an RN. The team that replace Ken and the RN were Tenzen (female RN) and Tenzen (male CNA). Evidently Tenzen is a very common name in India. These two didn’t know each other until they met at this job. This tag team was with me Friday and Saturday. Tenzen, RN, was also there on Sunday.
After the first night on this ward, I found that when I used my call button, someone would talk with me before someone came to my room. This unit had 17 beds and was close to full most of the time. They received all spine surgeries, some cardiac surgeries, and other rather critical patients (whatever that means). So whenever there was an empty bed, someone generally moved in.
After moving to this unit, OT (Occupational Therapy) visited and had me sit up - immediate nausea and lightheadedness hit me. They had me lie back down. Then PT (Physical Therapy) visited with the same results. I thought I would be walking or at least standing Thursday night so I didn’t quite understand why we weren’t working through the problems - of course, I was still groggy. Now I understand - it is called spinal fluid leakage. 
Tenzen, RN, was such a sweetie in her 20s. She explained everything prior to doing it. She also kept pushing one pain medicine. I eventually found out that it was an as needed med! Tenzen, CNA, was a young man probably in his 20’s. One day I asked him about the other CNA who often came in and looked just like him - oh the foggy brain, it was him! He spent a lot of time in my room. On Sunday night, Tenzen, RN, came into my room at 11:30 PM as she was leaving - just to say goodbye. 
My brace arrived at the hospital on Thursday. It was left in the room where I was to go after surgery - but I went to IMCU. I’m not sure if they’ve found the brace yet or not. Another custom fitted brace had to be made. I got my new brace Saturday afternoon.
On Saturday, CNA Ken was talking with me (he is probably around 40-45 years old and I nicknamed him The Drill Sargent but not to his face). He said I was just like all the other spine patients and preferred to stay in bed instead of getting up and working with pain. (huh???) He said tomorrow I would be sitting in the chair eating breakfast and I would be brushing my teeth in the bathroom. My response surprised him - I said “Good!”. Finally OT had me up and standing Saturday afternoon and PT had me walking. It was hard and I’d been prone for 48 hours because of the Dura tear but I knew I was on my way. Ken said I need a long walk so we walked the entire ward - but he did ask 1/2 way through if I thought I could make it! I think the man was really a big softie!
Saturday was a great day of losing things: my drain came out - I was losing a lot of blood but some liquid was more clear and they didn’t want to have gravity help any spinal fluid leakage. The catheter came out. The heart monitoring cords were disconnected. The oxygen was removed. I’m not sure what all there was but Sunday morning, I only had the IV and the leg pumps.
Very early Sunday (Easter) morning, I felt like I woke up from the fog. (I have since learned, I’m still fuzzy but I did make a break through that morning.) At that time, the Unit was covered by all RNs. Anyway RN Tricia came in to do vitals or whatever and was talking with me. She said she had time if I’d like to walk. Yes! So she and I walked the entire ward. Later Ken said I had to have 3 long walks that day. Again, I think I surprised him when I suggested 4 since I’d already had one at 1:30 AM! I think I ended the day with 5 1/2!
Well, I was sitting in the chair for quite a while and ended up having to get back in bed before breakfast - wondered what the Drill Sargent would say--- he said he’d bring my toothbrush to me and I said “No Way!”. I did brush my teeth at the sink that day.
Easter Sunday was a very up day for me. I felt good and did a lot - probably too much. I got rid of my leg pumps - hurrah! At one point I was getting into bed and Ken said he thought I needed another lesson on how to do that. (I don’t remember any earlier lessons - foggy mind) Anyway he went through the steps for getting into bed, and then again as I performed each step.  He really broke down my most difficult task into minute pieces. You know, I still hear him saying those instructions, sometimes I even say them out loud as I get in or out of bed. (Oh yeah, he constantly told me to SLOW DOWN, can you believe it?)
Sunday at noon, I was told that I was drinking too much water! I’d had five 20 oz. mugs by noon! So, I started in on pop, sherbet, ice cream, and popsicles and a little more water. My system craved water - the anesthetic and the meds I was taking.
Sunday night was not good and no night since really has been. Lying in one position very long is painful. 
I woke up Monday morning feeling rather yuck but was excited when Tricia couldn’t flush my IV so she had to remove it. Yeah! Since I was expected to go home, she didn’t have to replace it. 
As I was getting ready, Ken came in and said something about leaving. I told him he’d have to find another unruly, rotten patient now that I’d be gone. He laughed - the man really does have a heart. He said I’d have to go a long, long way to be that patient. I thanked him for everything. Later after I was in the van, he told me it had been a privilege to care for me! All of my nurses were great along with the hospital staff members.
We left the hospital about 1:30 PM. Ken took me in a wheelchair and a cart with my stuff while Ray got the van. All the staff including the unit clerk, set me on my way with get well wishes. Once I was ready to get into the van, Ken slowly explained and demonstrated the process. Then it was my turn with him slowly stating each step. He made that transition so much easier than it would have been.
Ken was rather quiet - I did learn that he had a wife and a 10-year-old son who were attending church Sunday morning while he and I were walking. I overheard that he was studying to be an RN. Well after I was in the van, Ray spoke with him for a few minutes to thank him and shake his hand and in that little bit of time found out he’d just left the military four years ago and was a Drill Sargent!

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